Ty Faruki

A skull sits on a tarp in Rwanda

Excavating mass graves in Rwanda:

The 1994 Rwandan genocide was a period of significant tragedy, where the death toll exceeded 800,000 people known as Tutsis and their sympathisers who were murdered by a Hutu majority.

Excavations continue to this day, and thousands will never know the fate of friends and relatives long gone. The following photographs were taken in the Kabuga district, east of Kigali following a tip off from a man who remained silent for 24 years. What was uncovered were the remains of thousands of murdered people.

This long-term project investigates post-conflict societal issues and inherited socio-psychological problems. These photographs show the process of excavating Tutsi remains by a community effort from the Rwandan genocide nearly 24 years on. Only a corrugated metal fence separates the excavation site and the locals who live there.

Excavators are largely made up of volunteers and people of Hutu and Tutsi ancestry. These terms were introduced by colonial powers to divide Rwanda and are now illegal to use in the country.

Excavators dig for remains in Rwanda
Bone fragments are laid out on a blue tarp
A man emerges from a deep hole dug from red soil. He wears a light blue hard hat. Photograph shortlisted for the British Journal of Photography's Portrait of Humanity Award
A group of three men - one wearing a hard hat, one a baseball cap, and another nothing, dig a shallow hole to search for remains.
A line of excavated clothing can be seen draped across a makeshift wooden clothes horse
Pople are walking by the excavation site. Two ride on a scooter, one walks by wearing a red t-shirt, the other a blue t-shirt, and a backpack. The man in the red shirt is closest and is looking into the camera.

Identifying the victims:

Once the remains of the victims are discovered, they are stored and processed in order to be identified. However, due to decomposition, it is sometimes difficult to match DNA with the people excavators have found.

In many cases, the dead are buried without being named. The only real chance of finding out who they are, is through well preserved DNA. But if that is not available then speculative identification is recognised if a national ID card, driving licence or passport is located.

Two men work an improvised pulley sifting for bone fragments.
At another site, four men work an improvised pulley sifting for bone fragments.
Three men sift through red soil for bone fragments.
One man works with an improvised pulley sifting for bone fragments.
Red soil foreground sets the tone for the site of the excavation. A storage house can be seen in the background.
A large hole with nothing in it can be seen in the photograph.

Life continues, but will never be the same:

From the site, the contrast between the excavation grounds and its locality is stark.

Outside of the area, pharmacists, grocery stores and other local businesses go about their day, whereas, inside - clothing, hair and bodily remains are being collected to identify the dead. Of particular note was the system of discovery. Nothing is passed over nor is it discarded to better distinguish learning the identity of each victim. 

A shot from the back of a car into another car, a jeep, can be seen.
Two men can be seen holding a blue tarp containing human remains.
Human remains can be seen on a blue tarp ready to be sorted.
Bones, skulls, and leg bones are on a dark blue tarp dirtied from the soil. They're now ready to be looked at by inspectors and investigators.
Hair is collected from human remains into bags.
A man is readying more tarps for potentially, further excavations.